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Well-being: Realizing It’s Ok To Ask for Help

As I navigate through my life and discover what works best for me in coping with my chronic depression and generalized anxiety disorder, I have learnt many valuable lessons.  Apart from dealing with the actual symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as; the constant worrying, chronic fatigue plus feelings of hopelessness, there is also a lot of baggage that comes with these disorders. For me, this came in the form of denial, guilt and shame.

 

I have denied the presence of both my anxiety and depression for a very long time and often wonder “what if I had done something sooner?”. I was probably aware of my depression as early as fourteen and at age sixteen my doctor even recommended that medication might be useful for me.   At that time, I was not ready to accept that depression was and is a part of my life and so refused the medication. Another reason that contributed to this decision was the fear of one of the most common side effects: gaining weight. That may sound shallow to some but to a teenage girl, body image is everything and at the time I felt that trying medication was not worth it.

 

The denial of my depression continued through the rest of high school, through my time at university and also while I lived abroad for a year in Australia.  It was during that year away that I realized I could not keep running from what I was feeling. It did not matter how far I travelled or that I was surrounded by the most beautiful scenery, I simply could not escape my depression.  I knew something needed to change and when I returned home I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss treatment options and decided to give medication a try. I will admit that this treatment decision was personally a little scary, as I was not only afraid of what this meant but the label that would be assigned to me as well. I was also worried about disappointing my family and felt I was bringing shame to them because I needed these medications, instead of being able to combat it on my own.

 

However, as time has passed I have become more comfortable in dealing with my depression and I have learned that it is essential to put yourself first and to pick the right treatment options that work for you. There should be no shame for seeking and getting help and treating mental health should be the same as treating physical health.

 

In my life I have gone through many phases of feeling incredibly guilty for being depressed and I would tell myself that I have no reason to feel this way, as there are so many people who are worse off than me. My rational side continues to remind me that depression does not work that way and it is not something that you can simply snap out of.  However, some days the rational part of me cannot always quiet that negative little voice in my head.

 

Additionally, I have learnt that some people you meet will not understand what you are going through and some may even try to delegitimize your experiences.  For example; during a particularly stressful time when I was experiencing a lot of anxiety, a friend once said “Come on Melissa, everyone gets anxious!”. From this experience I realized that I am not obligated to share my experiences with everyone and I need to take care of myself.

 

One of the best things I did for my mental well-being, was to make an appointment with a psychotherapist. Although, I found the first few appointments awkward, I came to look forward to my weekly appointment and being able to express my feelings while in a safe place and with someone I could trust.

 

My takeaway for anyone reading this article is do your best to quiet those background voices that do not support your journey towards strengthened mental health. It is important to remember that treatment is very individualized and can take time to find the most effective treatment options. However, it is well worth investing the time in finding your treatment options, as they make dealing with those dark days that much more manageable.

 

By Melissa Wood

 

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